What is tooth decay?
Tooth decay, is a disease that affects the tissues of the teeth, which are destroyed by the acids of bacterial plaque, causing cavities. The affected teeth are usually punctured gradually, causing pain if the infection reaches the nerve. Children and young people are usually affected, but they can appear at any age. Normally they are classified into several types:
- Crown cavities: affect the upper part of the tooth. They are the most frequent, especially in children, and the easiest to identify.
- Interproximal or interdental cavities: are formed between the teeth and are not easy to stop.
- Root cavities: are formed in the gum line.
- Recurrent or secondary cavities: appear around the edges of the crowns, covers or fillings that have been placed previously to treat cavities.
What are the symptoms of tooth decay?
At first, tooth decay does not cause any symptoms, but when symptoms do occur they can include:
- toothache or painful sensation, especially when drinking cold or hot beverages or sweet food
- visible holes in the teeth
What causes tooth decay?
Sugars and starches combined with poor dental hygiene are the primary causes of tooth decay.
Can tooth decay be prevented?
The most important thing is to maintain good oral hygiene, by:
- brushing your teeth at least twice a day flossing at least once a day
- undergoing a professional cleaning every six months
- making sure to clean your teeth with topical fluoride (toothpaste or mouthwash).
It is recommended to eat sticky and chewy foods as part of a meal and not as a snack and, after eating these foods, rinsing your mouth with water. It is also advisable to avoid eating between meals, drinking sugary drinks or eating candies. On the other hand, dental sealants can prevent some cavities, as they prevent the accumulation of plaque in the deep grooves of the mouth.
How are cavities treated?
Cavities are treated in three ways:
- fillings: this consists of removing the decayed dental material and replacing it with a material such as porcelain, silver, gold or composite resin.
- crowns: these replace a part of the decayed tooth that has been removed to retain its original shape.
- root canal: this is recommended if the nerve of the tooth dies. It consists of extracting the centre of the tooth along with the decayed parts, filling the roots with a sealing material, and filling it with a crown.